Wednesday, December 23, 2015

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! Not.

The Legatus hates Christmas, of course.  I opted out of Secret Santa at work, the buffet lunch and drinks and only briefly attended the evening Christmas party.   I lasted ten minutes at the latter as I couldn't hear a single word anyone was saying due to the awful thump, thump music and acoustics of the brick lined nineteenth century warehouse cellar the event took place in.

Of all the aspects of Christmas I hate, Christmas music comes top of the list.  Even including Carols the problem is that the oeuvre of Christmas music is so narrow that we are talking about a few dozen 'classic' songs endlessly dressed up and re-recorded.  It says something about Christmas music when the last 'classic' was Mariah Carey's All I Want for Christmas is You, twenty one years ago.

Even the traditional songs and carols form quite a small group.  Of the latter Ding dong Merrily on High is my most hated, in that it sums up everything I despise about choirs.  This particular one encouraging choirs into more sub-Dickensian gurning and theatrical forced jollity than any other.  There is always a fat, bald, singer with wire frame glasses who thinks he is Mr Pickwick in every Christmas carol choir.  "We who wiggy-wig below", ho, ho ho, as they seem to be singing to my assaulted ears.

Seasonal favourite Winter Wonderland, for example, has been recorded more than two hundred times.  This song doesn't actually even mention Christmas, with the lyrics being written by an ailing Dick Smith while looking at the snowbound Honesdale Central Park in Pennsylvania.  Written in a sanatorium while suffering from tuberculosis, Smith died less than a year later, a day short of his 34th birthday.  Such should be the fate of all who promote Christmas 'cheer'.

Christmas means that Classic FM becomes unlistenable to, as every other tune is a seasonal one.  So I have to switch it off every five minutes or so rather than just waiting to turn it off when the endless adverts for dental implant specialists (tells you a lot about the average listeners) Dawood & Tanner come on (although, interestingly, they are pioneers in 3D printing of false teeth).

Fortunately, we do not get quite as inundated with Christmas music as in North America, although Tesco is pretty unbearable at the moment.  Waitrose, thank goodness, do not play music and do not let their staff wear Christmas hats.  Guess who gets my Christmas shop?

Some years ago I did a three week tour of  Canada and the US and found Christmas music playing everywhere: airports, hotels, shopping malls and even government buildings.  I had breakfast, lunch and dinner every day to an accompaniment of the same two dozen Christmas 'favourites'.  Even worse the North American appreciation for what makes good Christmas music seemed to be forever stuck in the thirties (Santa Claus is Coming to Town was also written in 1934), forties (White Christmas and The Christmas Song) and fifties (Little Drummer Boy - I hate that one).  There was no leavening by more comparatively recent numbers by the likes of Slade, Wizzard, Jona Lewie, The Pogues or even George Michael.  It was all Bing Crosby, Perry Como and, worst of all, Andy Williams.  I was hearing Andy Williams' It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year at least half a dozen times a day.  It was everywhere, like a sort of aural Black Death. There was no escape.

Claudine Longet. What was it that attracted her to the 5' 6" tall, nearly twice her age multi-millionaire singer?

When I was younger the Andy Williams show was a staple of my family's Saturday evening TV viewing. Apart from the oleaginous Andy it also introduced the world to the Osmonds, for which it can never be forgiven. Also slinking around on the show was Williams' French wife, Claudine Longet.  Longet was a "dancer" at the Las Vegas Folies Bergere who Williams literally picked up at the side of the road when she was 18.  They separated in the mid seventies and she set herself up with a skier, Vladimir Sabich, who was later shot dead by Longet in what she claimed was a tragic accident, while he was showing her how his pistol (!) worked. This despite the fact that the autopsy showed that he was shot in the back from over six feet away. Amazingly, Longet was only found guilty of criminal negligence and served only 30 days in prison on the grounds that she had to look after her three young children.. Williams supported her throughout financially and emotionally but after her short sentence she dumped the children and hopped off to the Caribbean with her defense attorney who she later married. 

The Andy Williams Christmas Album was released in 1963 and it's standout hit, It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year was, comparatively, a slow burner.  Santa Claus is Coming to Town, for example, sold over 30,000 copies within 24 hours of its release in November 1934.  It wasn't even the single released to promote Williams' album; that was White Christmas.  But over the ensuing years its popularity, boosted by Williams TV show, grew like toadstools in a rotting tree stump.

Now, I have to confess to actually owning a copy of The Andy Williams Christmas Album because, having moaned about its North American ubiquity after my business trip, my 'friend' bought it for me for Christmas 'as a joke" thereby injecting it, like a virulent bio-agent, into my household.  "Oh goodie!  Christmas tunes," said my daughter who wears a Christmas hat for the entire ten day period that now makes up Christmas in Britain.  So I had no choice but to endure it again and again that year as she happily span it on my CD player. Actually, having this abomination played all the way through made me realise that It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year is a positive highlight compared with much of the teeth-rottingly syrupy, candy-coated, sugar-frosted dross of the rest of the album. Silver Bells possibly taking the Smartie covered biscuit as the most musically inept and annoying song on there. It's as if someone had said, "Let's write a Christmas standard!" and then totally failed.

The Legatus plays only one Christmas album and then only late at night on Christmas Eve when I will indulge in a glass or two of Port and the spare, elegant tones of A Dave Brubeck Christmas to celebrate the fact that the whole ghastly season will shortly be over.

I will return after Christmas with my annual wargaming and non-wargaming highlights of the year. Until then, I wish all my readers a better time than I will be having!  Bah!  Humbug!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Come Fly with Me - The Lockheed Constellation for Frank Sinatra's centenary

One of the great album covers of all time

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mr Francis Albert Sinatra, one of the very few male singers I listen to.  I have been enjoying Sinatra’s wonderful 1958 album Come Fly with Me.  Apart from the class of Mr Sinatra and the Billy May Orchestra, in supremely glossy form, I am very taken with the wonderful cover for this album, which comes from a time when air travel was still a glamorous adventure.

A grinning Sinatra indicates to a, no doubt, lovely young lady that she should hop on with him to the TWA Lockheed Super Constellation in the background. The blue sky, the shiny airliners and the waiting stewardess all promise a brightly coloured and supremely glamorous international fifties adventure.

However, all is not quite as happy and optimistic as it might appear. Beatles producer George Martin was in the studio with Sinatra when he was shown the artwork for the cover. Apparently, he was furious at seeing the illustration, saying it looked like a TWA advertisement. Whatever he thought, the cover went out and the fact that Capitol records gave an acknowledgement to TWA on the reverse of the cover does make you wonder if there wasn’t some early product placement going on.

The second issue faced by the record company was that the family of Rudyard Kipling objected to Sinatra’s performance of On the Road to Mandalay and, as a result, on all copies of the record issued in the British Empire the track was replaced by Chicago.

Although, looking back at it today, the Lockheed Constellation looks like the epitome of fifties travel, in fact, by this time it was already becoming obsolete. It was the last gasp of a way of flying that was to disappear with mass jet flight. The De Havilland Comet had already become the first jet airliner and the first production Boeing 707 flew the same year that Come Fly with Me was recorded, 1957. The first Douglas DC8 flew the year the album was released, in 1958. These intercontinental jet airliners killed the Constellation dead for anything other than local flights.

The original version of the Constellation


In 1937 Lockheed had been working on a four engine pressurised airliner to be called the Excalibur. However, this planned plane was cancelled when Trans World Airlines, encouraged by shareholder Howard Hughes, requested a plane that could carry forty passengers 3,500 miles, way beyond what the Excalibur could have managed. So Lockheed developed the Constellation instead and the first one flew in January 1943. During World War 2 they were used as long range troop transports. Post war they at last were able to fulfill their original purpose as airliners with the first one being delivered to TWA in October 1945. They launched their first regular transatlantic flight with it in 1946. A Lockheed Constellation still holds the record for the longest non-stop passenger flight as on TWA’s inaugural flight from London to San Francisco in October 1957 the plane stayed in the air for 23 hours and 19 minutes.

The Super Constellation


In 1951 a lengthened version, with capacity for 109 passenegers, first flew. It is instantly recognisable by its square windows as seen on the cover of Come Fly with Me.

This is how air travel should be!


The plane’s elegant profile came from the fact that no two bulkheads were the same shape. Unfortunately, this made the plane expensive to build and less able to cope with pressure variations and all subsequent airliners used the cheaper but less interesting tube shape. The last scheduled Constellation flew on a passenger route in 1967.  856 Constellations were built and just 19 civilian and 8 military versions survive.

Although the Constellation would be instrumental in making flying much more attainable for ordinary people it was a very luxurious flying experience in its intercontinental days. Proper beds were made up for sleeping and passengers sat in large armchairs eating real food and drinking drinks served on silver trays.

Coffee, tea or me?

Of course, partly, all of this luxury was because people really needed to be induced to fly in the days when planes fell out the sky rather more than they do today. However, it was also because flights were expensive and rich people tend to be fussy about such things!

Come fly with me!


So today we can only dream of boarding a Constellation accompanied by a lovely woman dressed in the fashions of 1958.  It would not just be your travelling companion either, as you would have been able to look forward to being pampered by beautiful stewardesses.  In those days they had to be young, slim, well educated and single as this TWA recruitment advertisement from the fifties shows.

Today is also my sister's birthday and she is shortly off to San Franciso for Christmas which means I will miss out on one of her superb Christmas lunches.  At least these days it won't take her nearly 24 hours to fly there!

It’s nice to go trav’ling. Or it was.

Monday, December 07, 2015

What's going, a big car and wargames worries

Steve Barber tree under way

My blog posts have been as scarce as my painting time of late.  I am really struggling with this dark weather and just cannot paint under artificial light, even with daylight bulbs.  Increasing numbers of evening events mean that I have had to miss trips to Shed Wars too, disappointingly.  I have done a little bit of painting on my Neanderthals and have four close to completion now.  Thinking that the problem is in painting figures I have just started work on a tree which will hold the Golden Fleece for next year's planned Jason and the Argonauts campaign at the Shed.  Over Christmas I am going to put together some scenario ideas for Eric to work his gaming magic on.  The only problem is that I can't find the Golden Fleece itself but it must be somewhere on my desk.  I need to search for it...

At weekends I seem to have spent a lot of time out and about.  The Old Bat is working in a trendy dress shop during much of the week so she doesn't have time to do food shopping, which means that I have to do it at the weekend.  This is better, time wasted apart, as the bill is always about 30% less if I do it as we don't end up with piles of expensive and unnecessary fruit, (fruit is for monkeys), chocolate ice cream, Nutella and Cadbury's drinking chocolate etc.  Still, what with other weekend journeys for various things (like driving my son about) by the time I have finished my trips the light has gone.  

At least the Old Bat's parents have promised to buy Guy a car when he passes his test, although given his driving style is entirely informed by watching episodes of Top Gear I really don't think the prospect of having him let loose on the road is a good one.  At least Guy knows the car he wants (guess what, yours will cost less than a Forge World Smaug, matey) as we went over to the parents in law this weekend  (more painting time lost) to clear their garage so my father-in-law could get his new car in it.  Guy was very taken with it and took it for a short whizz up the drive, much to our terror.

Now, of course, many people change cars to something more practical as they get older.  My father-in-law (who is 87) has no truck with this and instead has got rid of his Subaru in favour of this handy little runabout.  We took it out for a spin and it is quite the scariest car I have ever been in, on account of the fact that it weighs two and a half tons but can do 0-60 in 5.2 seconds.  Guy likes it a lot.  Fortunately he can't be insured to drive it until he is 23!  It did, however, take four of us to guide it into the garage and he needed four spaces at Sainsbury's in which to park it.  Practical it is not. It's not like he doesn't even have another Bentley.

Our neighbour across the road (really!)

Another reason the Old Bat isn't getting on with the shopping is that she is faffing about talking to builders about getting the drive widened.  To do this we need a lot of bricks to go in as foundation.  Fortunately, the lady across the road is having a vast extension done to her house and has let us have the required bricks, which are now piled up on the front lawn, looking messy.   The Old Bat is also worrying about painting the hallway a controversial new colour, using a pot of paint we had that she rejected for the extension. Every time I object to some shade I get told I don't like change.

This is true, of course, and I am conscious that I am getting worse but I don't care.  Lately, even more than over the last year, everyone keeps telling me to get apps (the first thing I did when I got my mobile phone was delete all the apps) for this that and the other.  Even my Kindle is nagging me when I log on to Yahoo mail and it tells me to get the Yahoo app. The truth is I don't understand apps.  I don't even like the word (I don't like sloppy abbreviations) and even if I successfully download one I can either never find it or get it to work (like Blackberry messenger - it's on my work phone somewhere but who knows where or what it does).  My friend Bill is Mr iPad and had one way before anyone else.  He is always showing me the latest app.  There is one where he takes a picture of the label of a bottle of wine and then it is supposed to tell you all about it.  Except, of course, it never works!  None of these apps ever work.  Someone at work downloaded a bus route finder one for my phone.  "It's brilliant!" he said.  No it isn't because I can't work out how to use it.  I have this theory that 99.9% of apps are a total waste of time and have no use whatsoever.  They are just time wasters for people who cannot read. I was having dinner this week at the local pub with my friend (Mr iPad) and the waitress had a mini tablet to take the orders.  I asked what the soup of the day was and of course her tablet froze at that point.  She had to go and look it up on the blackboard! Excellent!

Strange corners of my 'playroom': As a pre-I'm a Celebrity... Jorgie Porter looks down from the 2014 FHM calendar on some random dinosaurs and a Zulu Wars meerkat

I don't want to read things on my phone or "other mobile device" because I can't; even with glasses. I can't abide squinting at some tiny little screen in an attempt to look at stuff.  Recently the publisher of FHM in the UK has announced they will be ceasing publication of the print magazine because “men’s media habits have continually moved towards mobile and social”.  Well, mine haven't (not that I read FHM) but the monthly circulation of FHM had dropped to less than double that of Miniature Wargames and the circulation of Nuts, which has also ceased print publication, was less than MW per issue.  The real issue is that young people can't read or, at least, not much more than a few paragraphs and only if the text is broken up with pictures.  They have the attention span of gnats and, of course, this is exacerbated by the constant interruptions they get from their pinging mobile devices.  They have to stop what they are doing to read some inane posting on Facebook.  The only reason I will miss FHM is that the  Old Bat used to get me the calendar issue every year for Christmas, as she knows that pictures of skinny, under-dressed women cheer me up.

I look at emails on my mobile phone only so that I know I have been sent something, so that I can then look at it on my 25" screen at home.  This increasing move to mobile delivery is ageist!  Wait until all these twenty five year olds get to my age and realise that they can't see!  Last week, we had a training course on using social media at work.  I thought that having a blog and Facebook would make me up to date but I had no idea what they were banging on about regarding hash tags and WhatsApp.  Why would I want to be connected to other people all the time, anyway?  I spend most of my time avoiding communicating with other people!  Grr!

A shadow of its former self

Of course, in my favourite wine bar you often can't get a phone signal at all because it is built under the railway arches on the South Bank.  I went there for lunch recently with a Canadian lady friend.  I usually go in the evening but it was quite crowded, unusually, at lunch time.  This is because of the horror of Christmas office lunches.  I hate Christmas with all it's forced bonhomie, conspicuous consumption and trashy decorations.  Unfortunately, I have several lunches and dinners out this week and no doubt will have to put up with ghastly Christmas revellers sat next to us.  Even worse there is an office Christmas party.   Something I have not had to endure for many years.  I am now working in an office that has over seventy people in it.  It has been made clear that I am expected to attend.  The question will be how quickly I can escape as there is dancing scheduled.  Horrors!  I also know for a fact I won't be able to hear what anyone is saying either!  Anyway, speaking of everything getting worse I had, for lunch, the sad shadow of what the Archduke wine bar used to call the Archduke Trio.  This used to be three interesting, different, sausages made by a local butcher near Waterloo station.  You even got a napkin with some bars of the Archduke Trio printed on it. Today, you just get three indifferent Lincolnshire sausages which are far too soft and cheap tasting.

Fortunately, lunch was saved by a really good Carignan from Languedoc. This was very yummy indeed, although the Archduke's wine prices are usurious.  Fortunately, my friend insisted on paying.

Wine at lunchtime work functions in the City these days is very, very rare. So I was surprised at what was served after a recent morning seminar by a large accountancy firm.  Then, of course, I realised that it was a shipping event and the maritime organisers, rather than the accountancy hosts, had insisted on the wine.  The shipping industry still holds by lots of wine at lunchtime.  The Pouilly Fume, not a wine I habitually drink, was rather good.

Back on technology, my daughter wants a new iPod Touch for Christmas as hers has packed up and in researching this I have had a nasty scare about my iPod.  I have just discovered that Apple have withdrawn classic iPods but haven't replaced them with anything equivalent.  The iPod Touch (which is all that is available) does not have anything like the memory of my iPod classic and is twice the price.  Since I learnt this last week I am now dreading the time my iPod packs up (I am on my fourth).  I now look on my iPod (which I love more than my wife) like having an ageing relative or a goldfish. You dread discovering that one day the thing will have packed up and will be metaphorically floating upside down in a fish bowl.  New ones are still available for £450 (more than double the old list price), which shows how much everyone realises they are better than the iPod Touch (which you can't control without looking at, either).  It's all about Apple not wanting you to keep your own purchased material at home but forcing you to keep it on the Cloud, it seems.  This is like streaming films and music.  I've paid for something and I want to access it whenever I like, not rely on some rubbish internet/phone connection to access it.  I have the best fibreoptic internet connection I can get from my provider and it still is really slow quite often.  Streaming doesn't work!

The only box of plastic figures I have ever completed!

A similar concern to the vanishing iPod concerns the fact that it seems Games Workshop's Middle Earth licence runs out early next year and the fear is that they will just pull everything from sale.  If they can do it with Warhammer they can do it for Lord of the Rings. This will send prices rocketing on eBay.  I have a lot of unpainted LotR stuff but you can bet that I will be short of one vital box when finishing an army.  Maybe the trick is to keep the figures from the armies I like and sell off the unloved ones when the prices on eBay go up.

LtoR: North star Prussian, Dane and Austrian

More wargames stress has been caused by someone observing that the North Star Prussians and Austrians don't match the new 1864 Danes for size.  I hate it when companies do this (yes, Warlord Games).  It seems that the Prussians are a bit bigger but the Austrians are ludicrously large.  I will have to see!  A very helpful chap posted this comparison shot today at the Schleswig wars group, however ,which offers some hope for the Prussians at least.

Now, linked to this is a scenery issue (and of course I always have scenery issues).  Is there anyone (is it even possible in this scale?) who makes bare, branched model deciduous trees?  Firs and spruce aren't right for Denmark in 1864 so what do I do about winter trees?  I can't recall ever seeing a leafless tree in a wargame.

I have based a few  figures for my first Frostgrave band but the North Star metals are quite small.   I haven't tried assembling a plastic figure yet.  Eric the Shed has been dissecting the rules but his analysis is just making me think that the game will be too complicated for me.  I really am not very good at playing games!  I mostly like painting figures and now I can't see to do that.  Perhaps it's time to take up model railways instead!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A quick trip to Warfare...

As I have said before, the Warfare show in Reading is not one of my favourites to travel to, as driving in Reading is like driving in the Monaco Grand Prix with no pit exit lane.  The awful one way system means that you can be doomed to circle around the centre endlessly, like Halley's Comet or, if you get in the wrong lane, be slingshot off to somewhere odd like Basingstoke, with no way to turn around for five miles, while being cut up by angry men in Vauxhalls.  So what a relief to get a lift from Eric the Shed and arrive stress free.  

I took my camera but really there isn't much to photograph, as the trade stands are trade stands and the hall is cramped (it was busy too) and the games are mostly of the tournament type.  Rank after rank of wargames on largely identical green baize cloths with that sort of toy town scenery.  It is the wargames equivalent of battery farming but I think, perhaps, that my exposure to Eric's marvellous scenery has spoiled me. We did have a chance to talk about planned campaigns for next year including Jason and the Argonauts and Frostgrave.

My limited purchases were all on my pre-show list, pretty much. Frostgrave soldiers and some lady Vikings from the Dice Bag Lady plus a couple of lady Dark Ages archers, which were a new release at the show from Elite Wargames and Models.  I was going to buy the female Frostgave sigilist and apprentice to lead my lady Vikings but the figures were tiny.  In fact all the metal Frostgrave figures were smaller than I expected.  I went for the Norse-looking Enchanter and apprentice instead but I think some of my lady Vikings will dwarf them.  

I thought I had bought the 7th Voyage Ray Harryhausen  type rules when they first came out but have been unable to find them anywhere so I picked up a copy, as one of the stands had them at a third off.

Finally, and the only thing not on my list, was a bag of 10mm Republican Romans from Newline Designs.  I have always wanted to do the Punic Wars but am I ever going to be able to paint enough 28mm figures?  I will see if I can actually paint them but they look, unusually for this scale, quite good anatomically.  I will have to make a decision about basing and rules.  I sold my Warmaster Ancients rules years ago (foolishly, as the cheapest they go for now is about £32 a copy second hand)  but maybe I should just use Hail Ceasar or some such.

It's too dark to paint this afternoon but maybe I can do some basing.

Thanks to Eric for the lift!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Something for the Weekend: Happy Hallowe'en

More about our pin-up witch on my Legatus Wargames Ladies blog here.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Pulp at the Shed: the Scales of Anubis Campaign - The Balance of Souls

Part of Eric's amazing board.  There is also a complete village not visible.  My forces entered the board at top left.

Eric the Shed has been continuing with his epic Scales of Anubis campaign since August and there was another game last night.  Unlike the previous three games, I did manage to get along (I quite often have to do work events in the evening) and there were six others in the shed.  Eric had hinted that there was a Where Eagles Dare aspect to it but this was not a lot of help to me as I had no idea about Where Eagles Dare.  I knew it was a film but that was it!

Anyway, Eric will no doubt be providing his usual splendidly illustrated account shortly but I will just provide a brief overview of the game from my point of view.  The other games have used Pulp Alley rules as players' forces were around ten figures but this one was more in the nature of a proper military action where we had a couple of dozen figures each, so it was Bolt Action, this time.  I had four units of six British paratroops.  Incidentally, my Uncle Keith fought at Arnhem as part of the Airborne, although he was glider-borne rather than a paratrooper.  He missed D-Day as he had been trained to operate a particular new light artillery piece which wasn't ready, as it turned out, for the big day.  

Objective flugplatz

Anyway, the British had to extract the final component of the Scales of Anubis, the Balance of Souls, from deep within Nazi Germany just before the outbreak of World War 2.  The British were told (I think - I didn't have my glasses so couldn't actually read my player's briefing) that the piece was in the Castle or the village but we also had to secure the airfield as an exit point.  

Taking on the pillbox

My units came onto the board close to the heavily defended airfield which had a pillbox and a nasty looking armoured car at the gate.  I got my troops into a walled orchard and had some initial success against the unit in the pillbox.  Incredibly, given my parlous dice throwing last time, I managed to get four sixes out of six dice thrown.   I credited this to the fact that Sooty the cat had been banished from the shed.  Unfortunately, I continued to throw high when I needed low scores to unpin myself or otherwise pass morale tests. Once inside the orchard I got pinned down in every way, not wanting to risk getting into the open given the presence of the armoured car, as we had no anti-armour capability.

Blonde girls with guns!

What I hadn't counted on was the arrival of two units, in smart cars, of Nazi She-Wolves; strapping blonde women (Seven of them in each car?  They must be as friendly with each other as one might suspect - at least from a series of obviously historically accurate  films of the seventies I have seen - Frauleins in Uniform (1975) aka She-Devils of the SS springs to mind) with lots of sub-machine guns, who stood outside the walls of the orchard and poured fire inside.  These were controlled by Nazi mastermind, Mark, who has won every single game of the scales of Anubis so far to the extent that I now actually think of him as a sinister Nazi in real life (although, in reality, there were more fascists in my own family (including the Old Bat - the only person I know who has actually voted BNP - she thinks UKIP are wishy-washy pinko liberals) due to a link with Oswald Mosley in the thirties!). 

Time to re-take the orchard!

My forces were being whittled away in the orchard although, towards the end of the game, I saw a slight improvement in my fortunes due to the kind transfer of a unit from Steve.  This  enabled me to mass behind the wall, see off the She-Wolves and counter attack back into the orchard.  At Arnhem my uncle had come similarly unstuck and, making a break for it, had rounded a corner on his Airborne folding bicycle only to be confronted by a Panther tank in the road.  He calmly got off the bike, turned it 180 degrees and cycled back the way he had come, very fast.  Fortunately, he had been his schools's victor ludorum and his athleticism got him out of trouble!

Tanks appear!

We didn't quite reach resolution in the game.  The British were close to capturing the airfield but the cunning Nazis has shifted the location of the artifact.  In addition, a column of tanks had appeared in the village and was heading up towards the airfield and castle.  So, happily, we are promised another game!  Thanks to Eric, as ever, and all the other players for tolerating my total inability to remember any rules whatsoever.  Maybe I should take up model railways rather than wargaming?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Agincourt October 25th 1415

Agincourt according to another of my great influences: Look & Learn magazine

There are a number of battles which have always resonated with the Legatus and driven his figure and book collecting: Thermopylae, Waterloo, Gettysburg and, perhaps, above all, Agincourt.  I have collected and painted some Spartans but always resisted buying any Persians.  I have re-fought Waterloo and Gettysburg with hundreds of Airfix plastics.  But I have never tried to do anything about Agincourt.  In a way the reason is the same one that has stalled my Thermopylae projects due to lack of Persians: the sheer horror of having to paint hundreds of figures wearing complex livery.

My interest in Agincourt came from two things which happened one Christmas in 1972.  We often used to visit my Uncle Len (who sadly died, well into his eighties, this year) at Christmas.  Uncle Len had something we didn't have at this time:  a colour television.  He actually had two, which was even more unusual, as they cost about £400 then.  One was in his study and it was in there that I first watched Laurence Olivier's Henry V (1944) in colour.  A combination of the novelty of the colour TV picture, the quality of the film itself and William Walton's thrilling music (which Olivier hated) made a big impression.

Backing this up was the fact that that Christmas I had been given a copy of The War Game which featured recreations of historic battles using Peter Gilder's figures and terrain in a way I had never seen wargames depicted before - also in full colour (younger people forget that most media at the time was still in black and white).

Oh, how I wanted lots of shiny silver knights and archers.  So you would have thought that when Perry miniatures came out with their Agincourt to Orleans range in 2006 (nearly ten years ago!) I would have jumped right in (surely not?) and I nearly have, many, many times. Apart from the painting problems, though, Agincourt is one of those difficult battles to wargame effectively (like Thermopylae, the Alamo and Rorke's Drift) and I realise that, however hard I try to fight the urge, I am psychologically unable to pull myself away from seeing wargaming through the lens of historical recreation.  I cannot get my head around fictional actions (skirmishes, possibly) but not for major battles.  This, of course, can limit the use of any figures I might contemplate (like Sedgemoor, for example). 

I was sorely tested again by the Perry brothers new English army plastics (with French on the way) but I already have three boxes of Wars of the Roses figures I haven't painted yet and I have actually fought half a dozen Wars of the Roses wargames, with what is my biggest wargames force, and they have potentially far more use on the table.  The opening, today, of the Perries diorama in the Tower of London, which I am going to try and get to see on Wednesday, will be another temptation, although the £18.50 entrance to the Tower is nearly the cost of the Perry box of figures so I am sure that, despite today's anniversary, I can resist again!

Friday, October 23, 2015

What's going on...and The Last Kingdom

Well, the short answer is not very much on the hobby front.  I am still largely working seven days a week and what with transporting Guy to various rowing events there really hasn't been any time to paint.  I am hoping that this weekend I can have a couple of hours so let's hope the light is good.  I want to undercoat the rest of my 1864 Danes, finish a Neanderthal or two and get some base colours down on my Lucid Eye South American Lost World type natives.

Also in the imminent pile are some Lucid Eye Amazons although I had a panic this week when I thought I had lost the Queen's bow and quiver. Eventually I found it tucked under the back of my computer monitor.  She is actually nearly finished but I have decided, foolishly, to give her a jaguar hide shield and the thought of attempting this is stressing me out somewhat!

My copy of Frostgrave arrived this week and I have had a brief look at it but am too stupid to understand how rules work just by reading them.  I have always shied away from any rules that use magic so this is a big departure for me but I have been encouraged by the fact that Eric the Shed will be building Frostgrave scenery for battles next year.  This just leaves me with the comparatively simple task of painting less than ten figures.  I don't have any of the official figures yet but have been toying with using some of my Foundry Vikings (especially the girly ones), even though they don't work for the pseudo medieval look of the official line.  Giving them some kite shields may do the job, though.

Speaking of Vikings, I really enjoyed The Last Kingdom on TV. Looking at it from a wargamers perspective the battle in last night's episode certainly looked better than the equivalents in Sharpe due to around ten times the number of extras. In fact it looked like a big budget production (unlike Vikings for example) with good looking dark age settlements.  

Several things slightly annoyed me. Firstly, the Northumbrian castle looked completely wrong  for this period and was, from the look of it, modelled to look like an obviously Hungarian (where most of it was shot) structure used as a location.  Far too much stone for the period and the square-capped towers look very Eastern European.  Secondly, yet again, filmmakers don't understand the use of spears in Dark Ages warfare with everyone using swords in the (otherwise well realised) shield wall.  

I also don't think the Saxon shields, obviously meant to be Saxon versions of Early Imperial Roman shields (if they were supposed to be folk memory versions of Roman shields they would be flat and oval, anyway), had any historical basis but were, no doubt, included in order to differentiate the armies.

The reviews have generally been very good though, so hopefully it will do well in the ratings.  One reviewer complained that most of the action took place in the dark and so he couldn't see what was going on.  I didn't have any problems watching on a high definition TV but the BBC iPlayer version is very murky indeed.  The costumes have, as ever, been a bit over-designed with the usual surfeit of leather but they are better than those in Vikings.

I will be digging out my Vikings, no doubt.  I have quite a few painted ones (they have even seen some actual games at Guildford many years ago) but I have a lot more unpainted ones.  Mine are a mixture of Foundry, old Gripping Beast (I don't like their gnomish plastics) and Artizan.  For this period I need to avoid the helmets with nose guards I think.

I also liked the way they used the word "Viking" in the proper Old Norse meaning of going on a freebooting voyage. Incidentally, when I was at college one of my girlfriends studied History.  We had two History professors at Brasenose, known as Dr Death and Dr Gush.  Dr Death was a crumbling old relic and Dr Gush was the bouncy, young, now internationally well known, Dr Simon Schama, then in his mid thirties.  Dr Death, a medievalist, always pronounced the word "Vickings" with a short 'i', according to my friend.  Anyway, I will try and dig out my Cornwell novels from wherever they are.

Our heating packed up last week and we had to have British Gas come in and fix it (just the wireless thermostat receiver in the boiler, thankfully).  While doing so my wife insisted that they had a look at the radiator in my study, which hasn't worked for years.  Unfortunately, this meant pulling out three filing cabinets covered in stuff, my entire plastics pile (dozens of boxes of figures, some of which I had forgotten about) and loads of box files containing all sorts of stuff (mainly Playboys from the fifties and sixties)  Down the back of one of these stacks I found a whole load of wargames rules I had lost, including some I don't remember buying at all.  Still no sign of the 7th Voyage ones though.  So, until I sort everything out and put it back (or sell it, according to the Old Bat) my room is even more chaotic than ever)

The mess in my room was getting me down so I went around to my friend A's again and had some more Port, which I'm not supposed to.  This was my last bottle of Port from the stock I inherited from my Uncle, an Offley Boa Vista 1972, which was still just excellent.

On a less sophisticated note, I am not a big fan of supermarket sandwiches but occasionally, if I am on the go, I need one.  Into Boots this week and a new one to me: Chicken, chorizo and smoky beans.  It was quite good but it made me nostalgic for my favourite ever shop sandwich, which was also a Boot's one (most of their sandwiches these days are very boring and there are far too many vegetarian ones).  Back in the eighties and early nineties they made one called Mexican chicken which had chilli mayonnaise and kidney beans in with lettuce and chilli chicken.  It was quite the best shop sandwich I ever had and is much missed.  The mayonnaise being far superior to the salsa in today's version.  It was not the best sandwich I ever had, that was a prosciutto (thick cut, unusually), mozzarella and pesto ciabatta in the Admiral hotel in Copenhagen.

One thing I didn't like about The Last Kingdom was the wailing music which was rather grating in a sort of Hans Zimmer/Lisa Gerrard/Gladiator way.  So for this post it's back to Mario Nascimbene's wonderful soundtrack to The Vikings (1958).